Back to Meet Our Members
I’ve been in P2 for about 5 years now, and only became a member of IAP2 Canada in early 2015 through my role with the City of Toronto. My background is in landscape architecture – I earned my Bachelor’s in landscape architecture and my Master’s in design writing and I found a job that combined the two disciplines.
Do any projects in particular stand out?
My career in public participation started with The Planning Partnership in Toronto, where I worked under the direction of Donna Hinde. Donna is a landscape architect by training and has been working in P2 for decades. I really couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the field. She is a leader in P2 for planning and design projects, and is constantly finding new ways to engage stakeholders. Landscape architecture is a very public-facing profession. You’re creating places that people enjoy, like plazas or streetscapes, so inherent in that is involving the public in those designs. You’re not only designing something the public will enjoy but involving them in that process.
When you’re creating any kind of infrastructure, you’re always going to run into controversy about what’s cost-effective and even about what’s beautiful. People have opinions and this breeds a great discussion and a great forum. I’ve always been an inclusionary type: you have to be in this trade, because you’re working with all sorts of different people with different ideas and points of view. We’ve never gone to the public with a fully-formed design: I believe the P2 part should always come in the earliest phases of a project, and in my experience, it usually does.
From the Planning Partnership, I went to the City of Brampton as coordinator of community engagement there. I had a chance to work with Olga Lukich and learn more from her, then I came to Toronto in 2015, under the direction of Tracy Manolakakis. I’m fortunate to be able to work on a variety of projects including transportation, planning, engineering, and construction projects
The Public Consultation Unit at the City of Toronto has been around for a long time and the city of TO works to engage the public in its projects. Tracy is a real champion of P2 and has worked incredibly hard to ensure that public consultation has been involved in every project that we’ve worked on and that’s resulted in a better process overall.
There are two. One is the York University Master Plan, which I worked on at the Planning Partnership. They’ve had a long history with York University, and this was a very interesting project because it was a large scale and involved so many different communities. We had to engage students, faculty, staff, seniors, administrators, and the community in the area of the campus. Finding the right ways to engage them was challenging, as was balancing each group’s needs in the master plan. We had wonderful opportunities to engage with the campus community with that. Through that process, Donna Hinde won the Gold Facilitation Impact from the International Association of Facilitators for the project.
The second one is more recent: in 2015, with the City of Toronto, I worked with Transportation Services on a project called “Peak Hours”. The idea was to improve streetcar flow along Queen Street, College Street and Dundas Street by changing some of the morning and afternoon rush hour driving restrictions – when there’s no on-street parking. The rush hours would be extended and reduced in some places.
So we had to look at where the restrictions are, but the routes go through six wards, so we had a number of different communities and BIAs involved. Transportation Services had gathered an incredible amount of data and brought forward the proposals. My colleague, Maogosha Pyjor – also a senior public consultation coordinator – and I took them to the public and the BIAs at a number of public events and meetings. These locals know the area — for example, where seniors’ homes and medical clinics are, where people would need to be dropped off from cars at the curb. Some of the Transportation Services’ proposals did change as a result of the input we got. So the changes were implemented this past December, and Transportation Services is monitoring their impact.
Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”?
I had the opportunity to work on a lot of smaller neighbourhood-scale projects, and I’ve learned a lot about community relations and that no project is ‘too small’ to have consultation. What seems like “minor” changes turn out to have a big impact on the people living there; so that’s something I try to keep in mind with these projects.
What “big wins” have you had?
The one that comes to mind that was a “big win”, when I was at The Planning Partnership and I was able to work with the team on the Goderich Re-Build master plan. This was after the tornado in 2011 that devastated the town. I was so impressed by the willingness of the community to get involved in the rebuilding: the meetings were packed and it resulted in a plan that was truly supported by the community.
The Planning Partnership went on to work on rebuilding the downtown including the central square, replacing the trees they had lost.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …
If you’re wanting to do this, at your core you really have to be a team player – someone who values the contributions of the group. You need to value not just the opinions and insights of the public but also of the people you’re working with. I find my job is often as much about engaging internal stakeholders as external and finding ways for everyone to collaborate effectively.
How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
There have been two forms of P2 in my career. When I started out, I was doing internal P2, designing and facilitating engagement processes with staff internally to manage innovation. Then I spent the last ten years, designing and facilitating engagement processes between proponents and external stakeholders on industrial and infrastructure projects in Québec, Canada, Eastern Africa and Southeast Asia. It was right at the beginning of a time when private-sector companies and regulators started putting more importance on engaging people who would be affected by a proposed project. Now, my focus at Transfert Environment and Society is providing clients with strong ways to build and maintain good relations with communities and First Nations throughout a project cycle, especially in Ontario.
What turned you on to P2 in the first place?
I think that what triggers the need for P2 is when change affects people’s lives, whether a little or a lot. Change can’t be “parachuted” or imposed, or else you’ll be facing frustration and anger.
I first saw the power of P2 when I was a young engineer and I realized that my ideas were a lot less relevant than the ones of the guys who’d been working on the equipment all the time. I felt it was arrogant not to engage with the people who’ve been in the operation for years. If you assume that the people who are in operations have no ideas on how to improve it, you’re making a big mistake.
I was responsible for innovations to make our manufacturing process higher quality and lower cost. Our first attempt failed because of a lack of participation, so the second time, we were determined to work together with all the internal experts we could involve.
I realized then that I would be a lot more valuable as a facilitator of their ideas, to ensure the process was conducive to proper outcomes, no matter what they would be. So this was where I saw the need to engage.
That was how I started to read up on P2 and how I could play a role. I think every individual has input that will make a much stronger project, but the way to gather input and bring it to an outcome is just as important as the ideas themselves.
After a few years, I wanted to gain new knowledge in social and economic affairs, so I went back to University to get my Master’s in social sciences and went to work in international development. One of my friends thought my profile of engineering and social science would be relevant to engineering firms that work abroad and need stakeholder engagement processes. Many of the assignments I had during my time there were financed by the World Bank or other development banks, which have a poverty reduction agenda. They designed performance criteria and operational standards to make sure that the voice of the poor and marginalized are heard, so the projects they invest in have thorough and meaningful participatory processes. This compensates for the lack of national environmental regulations.
My role in these projects was to design and facilitate the participatory process on Resettlement Action Plans (RAP) and Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) studies. With field teams who can manage in the local languages, our role was to make sure the top concerns were known and addressed; after that, the bank would decide whether to invest, given the social risks identified.
Some proponents tend to believe that if they don’t reveal details of a project, it will have a better chance of going forward. But we in P2 believe that if you do that, members of the public will stall it because they don’t know what the project is about and they become afraid. Literature and the development of P2 in the private sector proves that it’s a better idea to let the public see what your project is about earlier in the process.
Another challenge we can experience abroad is the social hierarchy and the lack of freedom of speech. When we speak in public, it appears everyone wants the project; but in private, people share their concerns. It is important to factor that into P2 strategies. Individual conversations or small focus groups can be very fruitful when important people are not around, who could threaten people to take a particular stand on a project. You can also witness such behaviour in North America, in regions plagued by unemployment, as portrayed in the movie “Promised Land”.
BURUNDI MAPI was leading a stakeholder process for a hydro-electric dam located at the border of Rwanda, Burundi and Western Tanzania. There was to be a resettlement of the population, because the dam would create a reservoir and land would be flooded – not so much houses, but productive lowland would be lost.
We started a dialogue process with a proposed scenario, but there was some missing information: a lot more people would have been affected than previously believed. Our team was able to convince the proponent and the World Bank that instead of consulting on one scenario, we should give people a choice: show them that more electricity meant more land would be affected and that less electricity would mean less land affected. And that’s where I learned the power of P2: that in front of choices and trade-offs, stakeholders know they can influence and thus seek to participate.
Both land and electricity were super-important in Rwanda and Burundi and it was a difficult choice. Composition of the dialogue platforms was also key to have the right decision-makers at the table. One important investment rule for the World Bank is to restore or enhance quality of life, which meant finding a sustainable solution for the populations to be resettled. It was impossible to find such solutions in Burundi.
I also learned on that project how important it is that affected communities truly understand the project in order to have meaningful participation. It took a long time for farmers to understand how the reservoir would affect them, until we painted a line on the banana trees with red paint, showing how high the water would rise. Before that demonstration, farmers were publicly in favour, as it often is in more hierarchical societies. But once they understood the impact, they were able to voice their concerns within the political system. They ultimately decided that the land they would lose would be more painful than the lack of power during the next 20 years. And they would rely on more imports for electricity.
It was a great outcome, and now I’m a big advocate for P2 in scenarios and adding a social designer earlier in the process. Once you’re very advanced in the project design, and investment is high on a particular scenario, it’s difficult to go back and you might end up with a very bad project.
As I say, I became an advocate of adding social designers to a project team earlier in the process. The project has as greater chance of happening if it’s well designed at all levels. You need someone at the table who can give you the communities’ “eyes” due to years of experience listening to concerns and tell you all the reasons why people wouldn’t want the project to go ahead. A social designer, along with the engineers and environmental scientists, can help develop scenarios that could be more socially acceptable before facing populations with a bad proposal.
I am particularly busy in Ontario right now and it is interesting to share respective know-how with some of our new clients there. One of them is particularly progressive and eager to learn about P2. I met him in a P2 conference actually. Although I did advocate the social designer position to all my clients, he is the first one to have created the position in all new projects! That is a big win for us, as my colleagues and I have been advocating for many years now to ensure social integration of industrial and infrastructure projects as early as possible…The design stage is the right moment!
I think it’s a state-of-the-art type of profession. Being a P2 specialist is not something you learn in school. You have to walk the road and to put yourself into challenging situations to learn, but you need a mentor or a coach, too. You’ll learn a lot more by being paired with someone who has experience and can advise you, than at school. It’s a profession that works by apprenticeship.
One of the things I did learn by myself but would have liked to have more coaching is how to develop a mechanism to adapt quickly to culturally different regions. We are from a place, we are what we are, but in order to build trust we need to be more culturally aligned with engaged stakeholders. Anyone who works with First Nations is fully aware of this fact. The first time I consulted First Nations and Inuit in some of the Plan Nord projects, I was amazed at how different we are though sharing the same territory. There is also micro-culture in some regional areas in Canada that you would not expect. This adaptive mechanism becomes natural after a while, but you have to constantly remind yourself of it before any undertaking, since we come back to our natural selves very quickly. It is important to be fully aware of cultural sensitivities and ways of life because whether you are a P2 consultant or a project proponent, it really is your job to adapt to host communities and not the opposite.
I have been practicing P2 since graduating from the Regional and Urban Planning Program at the University of Saskatchewan in 2010. I began my career with the former West Central Enterprise Region as an Economic Development Officer and Community Planning Consultant.
I had two major roles with the Enterprise Region. The first was to conduct engagement through one-on-one interviews with business owners for a Business Retention and Expansion project within west central Saskatchewan. Secondly, under Prairie Wild’s supervision, I was the co-lead in the West Central Planning Initiative, a collaboration of five districts engaged in community based planning and main street revitalization.
In 2011, the West Central Enterprise Region ceased to exist due to Provincial budget cuts and I became a full time member of Prairie Wild, continuing to lead the West Central Planning Initiative and a number of other projects related to comprehensive regional and community planning and community-based research across Saskatchewan.
As community planners, we are bound ethically to serve the public good. P2 elevates the planning practice to ensure we challenge ourselves as professional practitioners that we are going above and beyond the minimum requirements to ensure local wisdom and experience is captured throughout the process and is reflected in the Plans and related tools/documents we create.
It is an exciting feeling to facilitate participatory sessions with various stakeholders - community members, boards, Councils, committees, organizations, and others, and see the appreciation from people that they had the opportunity to share their input. Utilizing the P2 process helps to build important capacity in the community from start to creation to implementation.
Prairie Wild Consulting Co. was founded by the Directors to enhance community engagement in planning and research processes. The Directors have contributed to engagement literature through research and work with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing – democratic engagement domain. All of our processes include extensive community engagement. We strongly encourage reaching out to community members and stakeholders at the very beginning of a process as we know this helps to build capacity and ownership.
There are many positive successes we have seen as a result of engaging stakeholders throughout the process. This includes:
In some instances, communities and organizations prefer a more streamlined process that only involves specific stakeholders. We recognize that engagement and the work we do is based on a state of readiness. It is important to respect where a community or organization is at in regards to their state of readiness and to be flexible through the engagement process. We ensure we remain true to the firm’s values by working with clients who are ready to engage community members and stakeholders to achieve the entire P2 Spectrum.
Build up your toolkit – there are a number of engagement and public participation resources available. It is helpful to learn and use a variety of approaches in order to be able to draw on them depending on the type of engagement you are doing and if certain events present themselves during the process.
As shared in the previous question, it is important to understand state of readiness with people, a community, or an organization. Some people will feel comfortable participating at different stages and in different ways. Respecting this as part of the process help to further build capacity and trust.
Always remember to engage a wide variety of people and in different ways – drawing from your toolkit. Often times there are people who are underrepresented and it is important to think about ways to engage those who may not always have a voice (youth, seniors, various cultural backgrounds, others).
Reach out to those who have experience and wisdom in the P2 field. This could take shape in the form of having a mentor or mentors and staying connected through the P2 network. Having mentors and a network is helpful in terms of support, idea generation, and learning from each other.
How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
I started working in P2 in 2007 – about 8 years now. In that time, I’ve only worked at Capital Health, the regional health authority in Halifax, which is now part of Nova Scotia Health.
What attracted you to P2 in the first place? I came to the practice of P2 through the PR/Communications end of things. I was in media relations for Capital Health and I was quite disenchanted with the work I was doing; I wasn’t having much impact. In 2007, we embarked on a wide-ranging and massive strategic planning exercise and I got involved in the team doing that. The purpose was to change the whole approach and trajectory of the organization and try to really get the public involved in the notion of thinking about their own health and trying to transform the way the organization was delivering health care into something more along the lines of what the public was looking for.
That required a lot of public consultation and that was how I got my teeth cut. I didn’t have a strong understanding at the time of what we were doing, but I guess we were doing it OK: we won the IAP2 Project of the Year award (from IAP2 International) in 2008.
The biggest change [in the Nova Scotia health care system] is the fact that we’re actually starting to engage patients and the public in health care. Initially, there were 9 district health authorities. In 2007, we (Capital) were the only authority that had embarked on this road to public engagement. Then last year, all of the health authorities merged. The new legislation requires a public engagement plan, and my new position is as director or public engagement for the province.
That sounds like a huge endorsement from the provincial government for what you’re working towards. We’re still trying to find out feet in a number of areas and one of them is public engagement. The state of health of Nova Scotians is not a good picture and I’m hoping we’ll be launching into a fairly extensive public engagement process to improve that.
The fact is, the healthier the population is, the less demand on the health care system. So over time, we’ll be looking at having a great conversation with Nova Scotians on how to change the health status of the population.
Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”? There’ve been a couple. I think, for me, one of the biggest learning moments was around the need to have senior leadership entirely committed to any P2 project that you’re going to undertake. It’s been my experience that if senior leaders aren’t fully aware of what P2 means, you’re going to run into problems – a brick wall, I would say. I think it’s fair to say that P2 fundamentally changes the way an organization makes decisions and if your senior leaders don’t understand the implication of what P2 means in decision making … you’re not going to be successful.
What “big wins” have you had? If I was to use IAP2 as a bit of a yardstick, Capital Health won Project of the Year in 2008, received Special Mention as Organization of the Year in 2012, and last year, the PPEET Collaborative (of which I was a part) received the first Research Award in Canada. I’m a big believer in the IAP2 model and dedicated to what IAP2 stands for, so to be recognized by that organization for your work is a big thing for me.
Tell us a bit about your work, organizing an Atlantic Chapter and what it means to have this new Chapter in IAP2 Canada It’s been a bit of a long road to get to Chapter status. We’re not even really there yet: we have a lot of work ahead of us to bring the Chapter together. Geographically [Atlantic Canada] is not the largest part of the country, but there are still some pretty big boundaries to overcome – a lot of water separates us. There’s a fairly strong and growing body of IAP2 followers in St John’s (NL) and Halifax, but in the rest of the area, I don’t know: there’s only a handful of members in New Brunswick and none that I know of in Prince Edward Island; so we have some work to do, to identify potential members in that province and bring them into the chapter.
It’s significant to have the chapter – for IAP2 Canada it covers the country from coast to coast and makes all of the provinces part of the organization. I think there’s a lot of growth potential in Atlantic Canada as well: the training in the Foundations program is quite successful and there’s still a lot of opportunity.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business … I would say, find somebody who’s well-experienced and make them your mentor. You can learn a lot of what to do and what not to do from someone who’s been down those roads before, and as someone who’s been involved directly with IAP2 for many years, I’ve been able to talk to people with experience and to learn from them.
How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
I’m a Vancouver kid originally, but have lived across the country. I have been living in Whitehorse for two years, but before that I spent a decade in Halifax and that’s where I started my P2 journey. I’m a Park Planner and through that I was doing some public engagement activities but it just wasn’t working. So I figured there were some smarter people than me who could handle this, and that’s when I discovered IAP2. I took what’s now called the Foundations course and the rest is history.
Why Whitehorse? – It’s kinda pathetic, but I think I read too many Farley Mowat books as a kid and was destined to go there. But the bigger reason was, my wife and I were starting a family and we loved Halifax, but we wanted a smaller town. I’d lived in Iqaluit before, so we went north.
It’s a well-kept secret that Whitehorse is kind-of entry-level Northern living, or Northern living for Southerners. It’s close to the Pacific Ocean – about a 2-hour drive to Skagway, Alaska. People from Whitehorse will drive down to Skagway for seafood.
It’s a mild climate with big, open broad spaces: we have the big St Elias Range with Mt Logan (Canada’s highest mountain) to the west with bigger plains and rivers to the east and north. Here in Whitehorse, the mountains are perfect because you don’t have to be hard-core to enjoy them; there is something for everyone. There’s lots of opportunity: to be outside and active, the arts, for families, for work, and to have a positive impact in the community.
Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”?There was an AHA – after I had “drunk the Kool-Aid” of IAP2. I started working for the City (of Whitehorse) and got a contract in park planning. We did this fairly robust parks plan, and you’d probably laugh: you’d think it’d be easy to do parks in the Yukon because there’s so much space here and only 37,000 people. But there are a lot of people in the urban area, and a lot of different values.
Thanks to what I’d learned in the IAP2 courses, I didn’t just “wing-it” in the consultations. We thought through the questions and planned out why we were doing what we were going to do. We identified the key issues early, and the result was that a project many people thought would go sideways went very well; instead of breaking the community it brought the community together.
So the “AHA!” moment? Seeing how using IAP2 principles and approaches turned what could have been a big problem into something that worked and had a lasting positive impact.
And at the end, there were some, shall we say, “excitable” people who came forward and complimented the city and said they look forward to future processes.
It became a strategic part of the city’s plan – when are parks the priority? That changed a lot of thinking there.
What kind of response are you getting to the notion of establishing an IAP2 Yukon/North Chapter?I’m a very enthusiastic Chapter of One. I know there are other P2 practitioners in the North, but I don’t know of any public offering. When I registered for the Conference in Winnipeg, someone joked, “Yay! Our only Yukon member is coming!” When I got there, I really felt I’d found my “tribe”.
One of our American colleagues suggested taking “baby steps”, starting with a training course, getting together with others over drinks, and through that, working towards the new Chapter. It’s one thing to take a course, but things like networks help the value become more obvious.
You might say I have selfish motivations for working towards a Northern Chapter. I want to promote P2 and make the IAP2 framework more of the norm here to help the decision-makers and the community’s faith in decision-making. I find it so disappointing to see development processes breaking the community apart because of poor P2, and this is one small way where we can help shift that around. I’m not a big “Kumbaya” guy, but it’s possible to hold the community together even as change happens.
What’s the need in that area?The thing people in the South need to understand is, you can’t look at the The North as all one area with the same people and the same issues. Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Whitehorse are all very different, not to mention the smaller communities. So the first step is to build the Whitehorse/Yukon presence … then reach out to the other areas if and when that makes sense.
On the one hand, Yukon — on paper — is “progressive” … there are 14 First Nations and 11 have settled (self-government agreements) and are separate nations.
Culturally, there is a lot of room for improvement. The Territorial government hasn’t quite worked out how to work with First Nations: there’s an attitude that “we’ve settled – now can’t you go away?” and the government is finding it tough to let go. They’re still making decisions that are not done in collaboration with the First Nations: some of those significant decisions are going to the courts and it often comes down to the First Nations saying that the duty to consult was not fulfilled. So the spirit and culture is not meeting what you’d expect on paper. It’s bad for community and frankly a lost opportunity.
The Gold Rush is a big part of that history, and that very brief event has continued to shape the culture, which is very individualistic and pioneer … but the Gold Rush isn’t on anymore.
Yes, there’s a need for P2 awareness, because the Yukon is in a new phase: devolution, where the Federal Government has recently handed off responsibilities like education, highways, social services – things the provinces are already responsible for – onto the Territories. More and more, the public wants to be involved, and the classic attitude in government is the one I heard from a councillor – I was elected to make decisions. Why can’t I make a decision?
Decision-makers don’t understand the benefits of good public consultation. If it’s not done right, it can end up in the courts – which can take years – and the courts mainly just provide guidance to the governments.
That being said, I can often beat up on decision makers for not doing P2 right, but on the other end, the public doesn’t help. There’s a lot of misconceptions on the part of the public as to what P2 is and what it isn’t. People think it’s unjustifiable that a decision-maker can make a decision when in a survey, the public has said X but the decision-maker has done Y. There’s a lot of responsibility for organizations like IAP2 to educate as to what the field is and what it isn’t. People get bummed-out: they don’t understand why decisions are made the way they are; you need to be more clear up-front about the process.
That’s why I like this field: there’s so much opportunity to help decision-makers and the public get to the finish line, and I hope the community embraces not just IAP2 but the Core Values of Public Participation. It makes sense socially, financially, and politically. Yukon is at a crossroads, with some very strong positions when it comes to resource development and the thinking still is, you’re not for us so you’re against us. So Yukon really does have the potential to become a leader in P2 – we just have to alter our thinking.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …I would say, “right on!” It’s a big tent and we want to keep building that tent. And IAP2 is important for building that tent because there are so many ways to do it. These days, people can get excited with online stuff. That’s almost like voodoo – there are those who know it and those who don’t – and you can’t get distracted before you really understand the basic principles (of P2) and know which tools meet your objectives. At the end of the day, the medium can change, but it’s still the same principles.
I’ve been in P2 since 1992, and have worked for public and not-for-profit sector before starting a small consultancy practice. I work with municipalities and not-for-profits, in environmental and infrastructure-related projects like transit, storm water management, waste management and some in the energy field. I work with clients to plan, facilitate and document broad stakeholder engagement processes, and build collaboration, which is important because some of these issues can be fairly contentious. I also work with a number of clients to facilitate strategic planning.
I and my team have just wrapped up a multi-year project with the Toronto Transit Commission, working on the stakeholder engagement around the procurement and purchasing process around Toronto’s new streetcars. Before the TTC put out the RFP to design and build the streetcars, we held consultations across the city – online and in person – and engaged 20-thousand people on what the goals and dreams and needs would be for the next generation streetcar.
We took our “road show” to the people: downtown in the heart of the city, talking to people in subway stations and at streetcar stops; we also had a large online engagement process called “Let’s Talk LRVs” (light rail vehicles). The information was used to supplement the information in the RFP, so vendors could know what the people were interested in.
People are very passionate about their transit system! There were public experts on the system from the largest over-arching perspective to the minutest detail; there were people who had super-positive experiences and people who wanted to talk about the negative experiences that they’d had; It was a great challenge to bring all these perspectives together.
How did you get involved with P2?
I sort of “fell into” it initially. I learned that it is a field that builds on my passion for talking to and learning from people and finding out how they arrive at their perspectives. I enjoy designing processes that bring in people who are normally on the fringes and don’t get involved to develop solutions that weren’t imagined initially. Maybe they don’t trust governments, or they’ve seen in the past that they haven’t been heard. There are also people who lead extremely busy lives and there are many barriers – like caring for children or aging parents. So we go beyond the town hall into grocery stores, schools and community centres or subway stations. We don’t have huge, in-depth conversations at those times, but I do have hopes of always bringing the broader community into a conversation.
Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”?
Just because people don’t show up at events doesn’t mean they don’t care: it just means they haven’t been able to take partin a personally, meaningful way. People are turned off if they’ve gone to a previous event and haven’t felt comfortable or empowered to say what is important. I believe as a P2 practitioner it is critical to create an experiential environment where people can hear one another’s experiences. Then, our clients can look at it and ask themselves what it really means for people who have to live with a potential solution every day?
What “big wins” have you had?
It’s hard to say – I’m very sensitive and critical of project outcomes. In many cases, we get solutions that haven’t been anticipated and they were true to the consultation process and the proponents heard some of – if not all of – what the affected stakeholders said.
One big success, though, was a storm water management project in Peterborough. People came in somewhat mistrusting of motivations and the expectations, but the outcome really reflected what people cared about the most. Storm water management is a big one in our area: we get the combination of rainfall and snow-melt, and that affects waterways with pollution in the runoff, transportation, flooding and so forth.
On that project, First Nations Elders and scholars were involved and sat down with project team members and city officials to have a conversation about what protecting water means – the sacredness of water for the First Nations. They introduced concepts around medicinal and sustainable plantings, which was cool. That was reflected in the project’s outcome, as well, and one of the recommendations going forward was to hold increased and ongoing collaborations with a broader spectrum of stakeholders.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business … I would say, “don’t be afraid to try new things, new ways of engaging people.” Get to know your stakeholders very well and the methods that speak to them as well as their needs. Build yourself a very strong and good network of colleagues – our local chapter has been great for that.
Above all, have fun, and if things get rough, don’t take it personally: try to enjoy yourself. People will play and feed off that.
Oh, yes: get involved in IAP2!
Quelle est votre expérience de travail dans le domaine de la participation publique à ce jour?
Je suis dans le domaine de la participation publique depuis maintenant 17 ans. Je travaille pour Hydro-Québec depuis la fin de ma maîtrise en Aménagement du territoire et développement régional. D’abord, à titre de conseiller relations avec le milieu, j’ai mené plusieurs consultations publiques dans différents types de projets (lignes de transport d’électricité, poste de transformation, réfection de centrales hydroélectriques). Depuis les 6 dernières années, j’évolue à titre de conseiller et formateur en participation publique auprès des gestionnaires de projets et des conseillers en relations avec les communautés.
Qu’est-ce qui vous a attiré vers le domaine de la P2? À la fin de mes études universitaires, j’ai travaillé en équipe pendant huit mois afin de proposer un concept de revitalisation de la rue principale de La Malbaie – Pointe-au-Pic, un lieu touristique situé sur le bord du fleuve Saint-Laurent au Québec. En cours de projet, il nous était demandé de consulter les commerçants et résidents du secteur afin d’intégrer leurs attentes et préoccupations au projet. Ce que nous avons fait en présentant un projet à l’échelle du piéton qui permettait de ramener une vitalité sur cette artère commerciale d’une autre époque tout en préservant la mixité des usages. Malheureusement, les élus de l’endroit ont rejeté notre concept et décidé de réaliser un projet qui ne prenait pas en considération les attentes du milieu. Ce jour-là j’ai fait l’expérience d’un bon exemple à ne pas suivre … et ma passion pour les consultations publiques véridiques est née!
Quelles sont vos intérêts à titre de membre du conseil d’administration de l’AIP2 Canada? Comme pour plusieurs collègues sur le conseil d’administration, j’apprécie particulièrement la possibilité de réseautage avec d’autres passionnés de P2 de même que la possibilité de faire avancer et mieux connaître la pratique de la P2 au Canada. Toutefois, j’ai particulièrement à cœur le développement de l’Association dans les milieux francophones. En effet, à ce jour, l’AIP2 fonctionne surtout en anglais. Dans un pays comme le Canada, où 1 personne sur 4 parle couramment français, il est important de refléter cette réalité autant dans les services offerts par l’Association que dans les outils de communication et l’organisation des événements.
Pouvez-vous nous donner un aperçu de votre implication comme président de la section Saint-Laurent? Depuis février 2015 je collabore avec une équipe fort dynamique de bénévoles engagés afin d’assurer le succès de cette la section bilingue de l’AIP2 Canada. Nous tenons à être très visibles en organisant des activités en continu et en utilisant différentes plateformes afin de communiquer autant avec nos membres qu’avec les autres passionnés de P2 qui hésitent encore à se joindre à l’AIP2.
Auriez-vous des conseils à donner à un collègue qui débute dans le domaine de la P2? La participation publique c’est loin d’être une science exacte, c’est même tout le contraire! On doit composer avec l’être humain en tout temps. Et c’est là tout le défi! Pour réussir dans ce domaine, il faut être capable de bien écouter, de bien lire entre les lignes et de décoder le non-verbal des individus. Il faut aussi être en mesure d’aller rejoindre les publics qui ne sont pas toujours à l’affût des consultations et qui pourtant sont souvent les premiers concernés. C’estun métier passionnant!
How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
I have been active in the field of P2 for 17 years. I have been working for Hydro-Québec since completing my Master’s degree in Planning and Regional Development. As a Community Relations Advisor I conducted several public consultations on different types of projects (power lines, converter stations and the reconstruction of hydroelectric plants). For the last 6 years I’ve been acting as a coach and trainer in Public Participation for Project Managers and Community Relations Advisors.
What attracted you to P2 in the first place? At the end of my university studies, I worked with teammates for eight months to propose a revitalization concept for the main street of La Malbaie – Pointe-au-Pic, a tourist area along the St. Lawrence River in Québec. We consulted with merchants and residents of the area about their expectations and concerns. The result was a pedestrian-scaled environment aimed at revitalizing this historic commercial artery, while maintaining mixed uses. Unfortunately, local elected officials rejected our concept and decided to carry out a project that did not consider community expectations. That day I experienced a good example not to follow … and my passion for true public consultation was born!
What are your motivations for being on the IAP2 Canada Board?
Like many colleagues on the Board, I really appreciate the opportunity to network with other enthusiastic P2 practitioners and to advance the practice of P2 in Canada. However, I am particularly committed to the developing the Association in francophone circles. Currently, IAP2 works mainly in English. In a country like Canada where 1 in 4 people currently speaks French, it is important to reflect this as much in the services offered by the Association as in the communication tools and event organization.
Tell us a bit about your involvement as president of the St. Lawrence Chapter …
Since February 2015 I have been working with a very energetic team of committed volunteers to ensure the success of the only bilingual chapter of IAP2. We want to be very present and visible by organizing ongoing activities and using different platforms to communicate with our members as well as with other P2 enthusiasts who still hesitate to join IAP2.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business … Public participation is far from being an exact science, it is quite the opposite! We are dealing with the human factor at all times, and therein lies the challenge! To succeed in this field, you must be able to listen, read between the lines and be mindful of individuals’ non-verbal language. You must also be able to reach out to stakeholders who are not always on the lookout for consultations, and yet they are often the first ones who could potentially be affected! It’s a fascinating job!
How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
I started in P2 over a decade ago. My background was in writing and publishing – I worked at the Institute of Urban Studies, and then with several magazines, but that was at a time when the publishing model was changing. My shift to P2 came when I was heading upNext American City (now Next City), a Philadelphia-based national non-profit organization in the US. When my visa ran out I came back to Winnipeg and have been here for the past 8 years, the last 4 with my own consulting practice.
What attracted you to P2 in the first place? One of Next American City’s main initiatives was its quarterly print magazine. When the print model “blew up”, we saw a real opportunity through P2 to engage more directly with individuals and organizations leading change in cities to enrich our content for publication in print and online, and to increase our impact.
We started hosting conversations in cities across the US – connecting on the most pressing urban issues in each community then we would share back what we learned with our readers and networks to help inform decisions about sustainable urban practices in cities across the country. We were using engagement to help municipalities develop policies better aligned with the public interest. For me, improving that alignment is what public participation is about.
Here in Canada it’s been so rewarding to be involved with IAP2 – and I’ve even reconnected with peers from my time in the US. Some of our original Next American Citycontributors are people I now connect with through IAP2 – including the former IAP2 USA president, Larry Schooler and American Institute of Architects’ Joel Mills.
Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”? One example comes to mind: in the typical open house format you miss the opportunity for true group dialogue. In a recent project, we did some initial engagement with stakeholders on the process design and we heard, loud and clear: if you’re doing events, there needs to be a Q&A.
My initial instinct was resistance – traditional town hall meetings and public hearings immediately came to mind, where there’s lots of opinion-sharing, but much less focus on productive dialogue. But as a team, we worked to move past a “this could go sideways” stance towards looking at how we could make it happen in a way that would support productive dialogue.
At more than one of the events, participants expressed their thanks at the opportunity for the group to ask questions and for all participants to hear the same response on important questions. Now we’ve developed a new face-to-face format that can be adapted for projects and initiatives moving forward.
What “big wins” have you had? It’s more like a high-5 moment: seeing what happens when leaders – whether government or organizational leaders – really “get” P2. I’ve worked with municipal leaders where strong communications and P2 have resulted in outcomes better than they could have imagined. I’ve witnessed positions on P2 go from “risky” – “do we want to talk to the public about this?” – to advocating for P2 as a fundamental part of strategy on important policy decisions.
We have a couple of things on the go right now that I’m really proud of: helping a municipality assess their communications and engagement to evaluate what is working well and what can be better, and it’s very exciting. They want better transparency, want better decision-making, and they want public input to assess where they go from here.
Tell us a bit about your time as president of the Prairies Chapter I am so pleased to have served a region with a growing interest in good public engagement. We have the very pleasant problem of having a very high level of engagement in this Chapter! Sold out events, and great volunteer interest. We’re the fastest growing chapter in the country – when we established the chapter in 2012 we had 20-some members and now we’re at over 80 from across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwest Ontario.
I think the next opportunity for our Chapter and IAP2 is to broaden the conversation with decision-makers, citizens and the media about how better public engagement can help ensure policies and projects are aligned with the public interest. The work IAP2 does with the Core Values Awards and other initiatives helps demonstrate how innovative, responsive engagement practices can result in better outcomes both for policymakers and the communities they serve and we need to continue to highlight that good work.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business … You’ll never have a dull moment. That’s the wonderful thing about the work we do: you’re dealing with the most pressing and important issues. We’re helping to inform decisions that affect all of us. I feel privileged to do this work.
How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked? I’ve been working in P2 for about 17 years, now. I have a communications background and I was looking for communications-related jobs and didn’t know which area of communication to go into, and I wound up at a utility company in the siting department. It was there that I realized I wanted to deal with the people who were affected by decisions like siting of utilities and through that, I got introduced to IAP2 in 1998. We were not told about IAP2 in university!
But I was only at the utility temporarily and I ended up going to Devon Canada, which is an upstream oil and gas company, where I got the opportunity to start a community-relations program.
Around the same time, synergy groups had been cropping up around Alberta as the oil and gas industry grew. These bring together industry, local landowners and residents and the provincial regulator (now Alberta Energy Regulator) – the three pillars you need for an inclusive conversation in that industry – and they encompass P2 beautifully when they work.
When I was at Devon, I got involved with what is now Synergy Alberta and that further sparked my love for public consultation.
Eventually decided I didn’t want to work for the industry per se: I wanted to be part of the process as a third party, bringing all the stakeholders together.
The biggest “AHA” moment that I’ve had was about halfway through my career. I found that, when things didn’t go as planned or as well as I hoped or I had difficulty finding common ground or a particular stakeholder was particularly fearful or suspicious of the process, I’ve taken it personally. So that “AHA” came when I was dealing with a stakeholder who was suspicious of everyone’s intentions, and reluctant to participate. At our third meeting, we sat down and talked one on one, and she said, “I really like you … don’t take this personally, but I’ve been through processes like this before and I’ve never seen anything change. I like what you’re doing and it seems to make sense, but I don’t think anything’s going to change.” At the end of the process, she was still the most vocal stakeholder and the one with the most opposition but she was able to find some common ground.
It really drove home that everyone comes to the table with different past experiences, and sometimes it takes more time, or requires re-thinking the process. But it’s not personal.
I think really any time that we take a difficult, high-emotion situation and find some common ground, I feel like that’s a win. In the case of that stakeholder who was so suspicious, she did stay with the process, so that’s a huge win.
The project where I remember saying, “YES! This is P2 in its almost-perfect form”, was when a client gave me a lot of lead time – so much that I was able to go to the stakeholders and say, “we’re ahead of the game: how do you want this process to look?”
Very rarely do we have a client give us enough lead-time that stakeholders can be part of designing the process itself. When they [the stakeholders are] part of the process from the outset, they own the process, and it’s much more fulfilling and engaging.
Is there much high emotion with energy issues in Alberta?
I think so, but perhaps it is not as dramatic as it once was. That may be because of our long history with oil and gas, and a higher level of energy literacy, as well as better public involvement. That is not to say that there is not high-emotion with the energy industry, but good public participation can go a long way. For example, I facilitate a synergy group that was born from high-emotion coalbed methane concerns: it was originally called an Action Group because they were landowners who were concerned and many in opposition of CBM. Now, here we are, 12 years later, and they’ve decided to change their name to an Advisory Group, because their concerns have been addressed and now they work alongside industry. As a group, they’ve developed best practices in exploration and new operations – not just for CBM specific issues.
I’ve been involved in IAP2 since 1998 and on the Wild Rose board for 8 years, so this is my last year on the Board. There a lot of awesome people: the first time I went to an IAP2 event was the Wild Rose AGM, I was fresh out of university and I was standing in the corner by myself wondering what to do, and a guy came over and said “Hi” and took me over to a table and sat me down with some of the long-time members of IAP2 at the time. They gave me networking contacts and we were able to develop some important relationships. So I would say, take advantage of every opportunity that you can within iAP2: local or non-local, it’s worth it. There’s a ton of people with great expertise, and they love to share it! The Mentorship program is a great way for someone new to learn about it.
I got into P2 three-and-a-half years ago, when I first started my job at Golder. They hired me straight out of my undergrad at the University of Toronto.
When I was at University of Toronto, I was in the Geography Department, I was doing an undergrad degree in Human Geography and taking a course in Environmental and Resource Management. Our professor introduced us to Sherry Arnstein’s Ladder of Public Participation and introduced us to the P2 process. That was the moment I fell in love with the idea of P2. One of the assignments was to audit a public information centre, and that was when I fell in love with P2 as a potential career. From then on, anytime there was an opportunity to write an assignment (on any topic) through the lens of P2, I would take it.
The “AHA!” moment for me was when I went to audit one of those meetings. It was for the City of Toronto’s Wet Weather Flow Master Plan. In sections of Toronto, the stormwater drains and sewers are combined: everything goes into the same pipe, but then there’s a division so stormwater goes one way and the sewage goes another. But when there’s a severe storm event, they mix into each other and everything winds up going into Lake Ontario. The meetings were to form the basis for a 25-year master plan.
The moderator was Tracey Ehl (now IAP2 Great Lakes Past-President), and that was when I realized that people run P2 processes 24/7 – this is their career. I love people, I love the process: I loved auditing these meetings and seeing what could be done better.
My 2nd AHA moment was when my wife found the job description for me at Golder: Public Participation Coordinator and Aboriginal Engagement specialist; and that’s the job I’m in now.
The first time I went to a public meeting with Caitlin Burley (Chris’ co-worker at Golder and co-chair of the 2012 IAP2 North American Conference). She’s the one who got me into IAP2. I was eight months into my new job and this was my first time engaging with the public. It was for a controversial wind project in SW Ontario. I learned so much from Caitlin, particularly, how to deal with people who have their lawyers there; people who are yelling and quite unhappy. I learned that sometimes people just need to vent, and they’re not mad at you. Your job is to help them get less angry: you’re there to listen to them and find out what their concerns are. It was a real wild and exciting scene for me.
The project is going ahead, by the way: the community is still somewhat divided but the company we’re working for did a lot of outreach and community-building, which has alleviated a lot of their concerns. Many of [the citizens’] problems are with the Renewable Energy Approvals process that was put in place by the Provincial Government – not so much with the project itself.
I’m currently working on a community energy plan for the municipality of Chatham-Kent. The town’s staff are onside, but also importantly, the industrial and commercial stakeholders are also onside and we’re developing the plan with them over the next four to six months. Everyone seems very happy with the process. We keep going back to them every four months or so telling them, “Here’s what we’ve heard, here’s what we’ve done, what do you think now?” Everyone feels like we’ve struck a right balance between not going too often: every time we go back, we show them substantial differences and having the municipal government in support of the P2 process is a big help.
I would say 2 things: 1 – get to know your local IAP2 chapter, go to the events, get to know the executive AND the other local members … they’re wonderful people and just as passionate about P2 as you are.
The second thing I would say is, go to as many public meetings as you can, both as an engaged citizen wanting to partake in the process locally, but also to to see how people are doing things. The more varieties of an open house you see, the better.
I know I said two things but I can think of a few more. Get involved in the IAP2 Mentorship Program, it was a fantastic experience for me. Go to the conferences, meeting people from other countries who are into P2: what ties us together is our passion and commitment to good P2 and you’re able to share your experience with others. Most importantly have fun with whatever project you are working on, always remember that you got into P2 because you love it and it can be a lot of fun.
Subscribe Today For News & Updates
Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest updates from IAP2 Canada.
Meet the Members!
Who is an IAP2 Canada member? Read their profiles here.
Subscribe For Updates